Odaesan is a mountain near Gangneung in Gangwon-do province. It’s one of the many mountains in Korea that is rarely visited by tourist. It is also the mountain, in the web drama High-End Crush, where the female lead character lived in.
Well, we were not actually planning to trek in winter but because the Pyeongchang Trout Festival got postponed and we had bought our bus tickets so we had to look for what to do nearby and that’s how we ended up climbing Odaesan. No regrets though, the place was really beautiful and we spent a great Christmas eve there.
Going to Odaesan
To get to the mountain, you will need to take a bus from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Terminal to Jinbu Bus Terminal. It will take approximately 2.5 hours and cost 12,200 KRW per person. Make your bus booking online via this English website. For the departure terminal, choose “SouthSeoul”.
UPDATE: From 22 December, you can use the newest KTX Pyeongchang Line to go to Jinbu. One way ticket to Jinbu from Seoul costs 21,900 KRW and takes around 1 hour 40 minutes. From the KTX station you can go to Jinbu Bus Terminal.
Once you arrive at Jinbu Bus Terminal, you will need to choose which side of Odaesan you wish to go to: Woljeongsa side or Sangwonsa Temple side. The bus to Woljeongsa takes about 20 minutes and cost 1500 KRW and the bus to Sangwonsa Temple takes 40 minutes and is free. Since we wanted to trek on the easiest trail (towards Birobong peak), we chose to go to Sangwonsa Temple, the nearest point to the peak.
Once you have decided which bus to take, ask the lady at the counter what is the next bus timing and she will let you know. The bus fare is paid on the bus so there is no need to purchase the ticket at the counter.
Here are the bus timings departing from Jinbu terminal to Sangwonsa Temple, correct as of the time we went there: 08:30, 09:40, 11:50, 12:50, 13:50, 15:30 and 16:40. If you are going towards Woljeongsa: 06:30, 07:40, 14:20 and 19:20.
The trail to the peak from the bus parking lot should take around 4 hours two ways according to the map. It is a 3.3km, and on the way, you will get to see three temples: Sangwonsa (상원사), Sajaam (사자암) and Jeokmyeolbogung (적멸보궁).
However, if you are a beginner like us, you will probably way longer. Especially if you want to stop to take photos 😉 It took us 3 hours to get from Sangwonsa to Jeokmyeolbogung (the half way point of the trail) because we frequently distracted by the beauty of the place and took many photos along the way.
We went through staircases most of the time on our way from Sangwonsa to Jeokmyeolbogung. Only some parts were not equipped with staircases. This is good because in winter when there is a lot of snow, going down through the slopes will be very slippery and dangerous.
Most of the area in the mountain was covered in snow although it wasn’t snowing at all in Seoul. It was really beautiful and we felt like we were in Narnia.
As you can probably see, all of us (especially me) wore no special gear for the trip and it made it harder for us to climb and descend. But it was all good because were mainly there to take photos anyway.
In between Sajaam and Jeokmyeolbogung, there was a nice place to stop for some fresh mountain water.
Jeokmyeolbogung was the smallest temple amongst the three that we saw but it offered a really nice view. You can also get free hot red date tea from the temple too. On the way up to the temple, you will see a cool dragon statue that acted as the stairway railing.
After reaching the Jeokmyeolbogung temple, we decided to start our descend as it was almost 3PM and the sun sets at around 5.20PM in winter. We wouldn’t want to be stuck in the dark on a mountain.
Luckily, without much distraction, we managed to walk back down to the parking lot at 4.15PM, just in time for the bus back to Jinbu bus terminal at 4.20PM. This was the second last bus back to the terminal. If you miss this bus, your last and next bus would be at 5.20PM so make sure you get back to the parking lot at least 5 minutes earlier than this.
Overall the trip was really fun and memorable. The mountain was not crowded (at all!) and it was all covered in snow – a perfect place to spend Christmas Eve with friends. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel too cold; perhaps it’s because we were too busy climbing. But if you are prone to feeling cold, make sure you bring some hot packs with you when you go!